News from Europe

British pensioner charged for offering women opportunity to talk outside abortion clinics

Local authorities confronted 62-year-old Livia Tossici-Bolt whilst she was holding a sign that read "Here to talk if you want to" near an abortion clinic.

The retired medical scientist is facing trial for allegedly breaching a local abortion buffer zone, which prohibits the expression of approval or disapproval of abortion. Authorities gave her a Fixed Penalty Notice, which she refused to pay, on the grounds that she had the right – protected under Article 10 of the Human Rights Act – to offer reciprocal conversations. Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole Council charged her regardless. 

Mrs Tossici-Bolt, supported by Alliance Defending Freedom UK, stated: “We all condemn harassment. But ‘buffer zones’ are going so far even to criminalise activities which are peaceful and helpful. For several years now, I have been offering a helping hand to women who would like to consider other options to abortion, and pointing them to options where they can receive financial and practical support, if that’s what they would like. There’s nothing wrong with offering help. There’s nothing wrong with two adults engaging in a consensual conversation on the street. I shouldn’t be treated like a criminal just for this. “

According to her legal counsel, Jeremiah Igunnubole: “Under vaguely-written local “buffer zone” measures, we have seen volunteers like Livia criminalised simply for offering help to women in need; and others dragged through courts for praying, even silently, in their minds. The principle of freedom of thought and speech must be defended both within and outside ‘buffer zones’. The Home Office have sought to keep our country in line with international law by protecting freedom of thought and of consensual conversation in the draft buffer zone guidance. It is vital, for the preservation of democracy, that this stands.”

The Council apologised for causing Mrs Tossici-Bolt to feel “distressed and harassed” when police officers tried to remove her from a public street, where she was just standing alone, holding a sign reading “Pregnant? Need help?” with a helpline number for women in crisis pregnancies. The authorities admitted that she was not within the censored buffer zone at the time.



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